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By Ashleylister @ashleylister
A friend of mine can make a trip to the newsagent seem like the adventure of a lifetime whilst another friend who had canoed up the Niger River in West Africa described the journey afterwards in terms that made me think she’d just got the number 68 to Lytham.
So a journey can be described in many ways and can be for many reasons. When I was looking in my files for a poem to go with this blog I was a bit surprised that so many of the poems had started as a result of going somewhere. Sometimes in the actual traveling and sometimes from the place I had been.
All of those travel poems involved trains and boats and (up to 10 years ago) planes so I couldn’t make up my mind as to what form of transport this journey would involve. And then I realized something.
When I was in my late teens and twenties I used to hitchhike everywhere. Standing by the slip road to a motorway or by the exit from a busy roundabout was normal. I could be picked up in seconds or in five hours as that time on the side of the A6 near Shrewsbury when it was pouring with rain.
I don’t often venture onto motorways or roads much these days due to getting rid of the car but when I do as a passenger I never see anybody hitching. I can’t believe that the price of going by train or running a car is so cheap that people don’t hitch anymore so I suppose it must be due to fear. Which is a shame as the people I met and the experiences I had were marvelous.
Such as the time I was by the A55 outside Bangor and this chap stopped and asked where I was going and I said Wolverhampton. He said hop in and explained that first of all he had to go to Manchester for his band practice and was that ok. I had plenty of time so no problem. We got to some studio there and I got fed and watered as the band played all evening. Afterwards we got into his car and he drove me all the way to my front door and turned around to go back to Manchester without even popping in for a cup of tea.
Then there was the time in south west Scotland and I was trying to get to Ayr and to my surprise a Rolls Royce stopped and offered a lift. It turned out the driver was the head of a major international company and it was the first time he had been back to his home territory since he was a boy. It was quite moving and again I was dropped off at the Butlin’s camp where my girlfriend from Finland was working. It was too late to get in so I had sleep the night in the stables which is another story.
Just going back to Shrewsbury and the rain. The bloke who eventually did stop for me said he had only stopped because I was smiling. I said it was rigor mortis. And there are loads of such memories but that’s enough for now. Although some day I’d like to tell you about the time in Rouen when I had all my money stolen and two Canadians gave me and my mate a lift back to London.
As to the poem, I chose to go with this one as it began on one of those trips around Europe where after a few days every place seems the same and if it’s Thursday it must be Italy. It reminded me of those must do tours back in the 17th to 19th century where wealthy young men and sometimes women would go around Europe looking for arts and culture.
The Grand Tour
I’ll never forget
my first sight of the Sagrada Familia,
turning out of a back street,
the baskets of fruit in searchlights,
wishing I had a spoon
to dip into the melting, sticky mass.
I stood smiling for a while
then turned back with the crowds
onto the Rue de la St Marie,
dodging the tables and chairs,
dying for a coffee,
meandering towards the Louvre,
nodding to familiar faces.
Outside I heard a girl say
she thought it was a little small
in, maybe, a Spanish accent,
but it was hard to judge
in the noise of the S-Bahn.
Later I met up with the Aussies
having a late break and mocha
in one of those cafes
where the cakes do odd things.
They said they’d brought some lire
to throw into the fountain
but I lost them in Wenceslas Square
where we drank ouzo
but that was okay because Anna,
it was Anna,
said she knew Kolonaki
and the last thing I remember
is staggering into some Japanese
and trying to convince them
they’d bought me a latte
in Covent Garden or Temple Bar.
(First published in Borderlines, January 2010)
Thanks for reading, Terry Quinn Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook

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